PWC: Parente (GT), Aschenbach (GTS) win Saturday at Mid-Ohio

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Two past Pirelli World Challenge champions won the first races of the weekend for the series’ second-to-last Sprint weekend of 2017 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, in Alvaro Parente (GT) and Lawson Aschenbach (GTS).

GT

In a dominant flag-to-flag drive from pole, Alvaro Parente won his third GT race of the season as he continues his title defense. Driving the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3, Parente was never headed over the course of the 50-minute race.

With a late-race restart coming after Pablo Perez Companc beached his No. 69 Mercedes-AMG GT3 at Turn 10, Parente just had to hold off the pair of Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.Rs, Michael Cooper and Johnny O’Connell in the Nos. 8 and 3 cars.

Bryan Sellers was fourth in the second K-PAX McLaren with Patrick Long scoring a top-five for Batavia, Ohio-based Wright Motorsports, in that team’s No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Kyle Marcelli was sixth in both his and the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 team’s return to the championship.

Top-finishing GTA driver was James Sofronas in his No. 14 GMG Porsche, thus giving GMG its second win on the day after George Kurtz won GTS Am earlier in the day (below).

GTS

Lexington, OH – Jul 29, 2017: The Pirelli World Challenge racers take to the track on Pirelli tires during the Pirelli World Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course presented by Honda Racing/HPD at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, OH.

Lawson Aschenbach finally got on the board in Pirelli World Challenge GTS competition in 2017, giving the Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R its first win in the series. It has won two races in a row in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ranks with Stevenson Motorsports, a team Aschenbach competes for there, but drives an Audi R8 LMS in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Aschenbach, a several-time PWC champion including back-to-back in GTS in 2014 and 2015 with Blackdog Speed Shop, became the sixth driver with the sixth different manufacturer to win this year in class. Chevrolet follows Ford, KTM, SIN, Porsche and Panoz, which had swept both races on each of the five weekends thus far.

This race was crash-strewn with several cars going out and much of the race run under yellow flag conditions. Alas, in the green flag period, Aschenbach got around polesitter Harry Gottsacker in his Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta G55 off the start and never looked back. Ian James recovered from sixth on the grid to come to second in his Panoz Avezzano GT, with Gottsacker third and GTS Am class winner George Kurtz fourth in a GMG McLaren 570S GT4.

The win is the 23rd in his PWC career, which has seen him win titles in GT, GTS and TC.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.